Draft Preview: Detwiler vs. Banwart

On Friday night, Missouri State's Ross Detwiler faced his toughest test of the season, opposing the #10 Wichita State Shockers. On the mound for the Shockers was Travis Banwart, a junior who, like Detwiler, should be selected on the first day of the upcoming draft in June. RC was on hand for the action, and below is our report on the two pitchers.

The story of the game was the pitching of Wichita State ace Travis Banwart, who was coming off a rough start vs. Southern Illinois the previous weekend. Banwart was excellent, scattering four hits over seven shutout innings, and he stuck out seven batters while issuing just one walk. Meanwhile, Missouri State's Ross Detwiler, who many expect to be selected early in the first round this June, fell victim to shoddy defense and zero run support. In what was his first match-up vs. a ranked opponent this season, Detwiler surrendered five runs (two earned) on eight hits over six innings, striking out eight while walking one batter. Wichita State, which ultimately swept the weekend series vs. the Bears, emerged from Friday's game with a 5-1 victory.

  • Travis Banwart

    Against Southern Illinois in his previous start on April 14, Banwart was removed in the fourth inning after surrendering 10 hits and six earned runs. However, he bounced back in impressive fashion against MSU, and he showed precisely why he has emerged as one of the Missouri Valley Conference's (MVC) best pitchers this season. For his effort, Banwart was selected as the MVC Pitcher-of-the-Week, which was already the third time he's won that honor this season.

    "I was working ahead, working both sides of the plate," said Banwart of his outing. "I got squeezed a bit early on, and actually all game, but I was throwing four pitches for a strike. That's usually when I'm on my game, when I can throw all four pitches for a strike."

    Wichita State head coach Gene Stephenson was impressed with Banwart's start.

    "Banwart was outstanding again [Friday night]," said Stephenson. "We've come to expect that though. He's been so good for so long, and he's so consistent. I was very proud of his effort."

    Repertoire: Banwart throws four pitches: fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball. We saw him throw his fastball everywhere from 86-91 mph, and we understand he usually works between 88-92. He seemed to have good command of the pitch, working both sides of the plate effectively, and unlike many collegiate pitchers we've seen, he throws a lot of fastballs.

    Banwart's two breaking pitches also complement themselves nicely. He slows down his curveball, using is as something of a second changeup, and it he displayed good command of it. He supplements that pitch with a hard slider, which has a late downward break.

    Banwart throws a fastball, curve, change, and slider

    "I get ahead with my curveball and show them that, and then I'll throw the hard slider just to show them something different, instead of throwing the slow curveball all the time," said Banwart. "It's great having the slider."

    The slider is actually a relatively new pitch for Banwart, and he spent last summer in the Cape Cod League developing it.

    "I pretty much developed over the summer," said Banwart. "I threw a little bit my sophomore year, but this year it's been my out pitch basically. I really bore down on it, and I said that this was going to work for me no matter what. And I got it to work."

    We didn't see many changeups on Friday night, but Banwart explained that the absence of lefties in the MSU lineup was largely responsible for that.

    "I worked [the changeup] in there whenever I could," said Banwart. "They only had one lefty, and I love throwing my changeup to lefties, because it usually falls off the plate. But I threw them whenever I could to get them to roll over, throwing it on the outside corner to righties. It worked. It wasn't great, but it worked."

    Final analysis: Banwart is an interesting pitcher. Baseball America during the preseason ranked him as one of the top 100 collegians available in this year's draft, and it's hard to imagine that he's done much to damage that ranking this season. He doesn't throw particularly hard, but he does have command of four pitches, and his experience playing for a perennial baseball powerhouse at Wichita State will only help his transition to the pro ranks. We're not sure how well his slow curve will fare against professional hitters, but Banwart's slider could become a good pitch for him as he continues developing it. At 6'-4", Banwart has a good pitcher's frame, and his mechanics looked reasonably smooth on Friday.

  • Ross Detwiler

    While other collegiate pitchers have fallen off on pre-draft rankings this season, Ross Detwiler has compiled the type of season expected of potential first round draftees. The tall lefty has put together an excellent season, and heading into Friday's match-up with Wichita State, Detwiler owned a 4-2 record and a stellar ERA of 1.73. However, Friday was his first outing of the season against a ranked opponent, and scouts filled the stands behind the plate, eager to see whether or not Detwiler could dominate against a quality opponent.

    Detwiler pitched well on Friday, but his team let him down

    Unfortunately for Detwiler, both his offense and defense let him down, as MSU batters were shut down while three 6th inning errors led to three unearned runs and an early exit for the southpaw. However, Detwiler showed impressive velocity and command in his outing, and we doubt that the scouts in attendance left with a negative impression. Detwiler pitched six innings, allowing eight hits and five runs (only two earned) while striking out eight batters and issuing one walk. He took the loss, and his ERA rose to 1.85.

    "He's an outstanding pitcher," said WSU head coach Gene Stephenson. "When he came out tonight, he looked like he was on his stuff, and it was gonna be a tough, tough night for us, because you can't rattle him. He commands three pitches for a strike, which he did for the first few innings."

    Wichita State second baseman Damon Sublett agreed.

    "I saw [Detwiler] before with Team USA, but he had real good stuff [Friday night]," said Sublett. "I mean, luckily we got a couple of runs on him early, and we got some unearned runs. He had great stuff, and was locating well and throwing hard."

    Detwiler was particularly impressive in the 4th inning. After striking out Conor Gillaspie, Detwiler surrendered a hard single to catcher Tyler Weber, followed by an infield hit and a blooper single to load the bases. However, rather than lose focus, he bore down and struck out Blake Hurlbutt on a 93 mph fastball. Sublett followed, and Detwiler escaped the jam by striking him out with an excellent curveball, ending the threat and keeping MSU in the game.

    Repertoire: Detwiler's fastball velocity is easily the most impressive aspect of his game. He was consistently sitting at 93 mph with his fastball, and he was effective at working both sides of the plate. Indeed, Detwiler's velocity is a bit surprising. He's definitely not a max effort type pitcher, and his heat seems to come very easily. His mechanics are very comparable to those of Andrew Miller, as he pitches at a three-quarter angle and keeps his front leg fairly stiff, essentially walking over his front leg on his delivery to the plate. At 175 lbs., Detwiler should add some weight to his frame as he matures, and when he does, he could add even more velocity to an already impressive fastball.

    Detwiler throws a fastball, curveball, and changeup

    Detwiler's curveball is a very effective pitch as well. On Friday, he generally threw it at 80 mph, keeping batters off balance. The curve he threw to strike out Sublett in the fourth was one of his best of the night, and he had no trouble commanding the pitch. It showed a good two-plane break, and although we're not ready to proclaim it a plus pitch at the professional level, it certainly could develop into one. Unfortunately, we didn't get a good look at Detwiler's changeup, so we really can't comment on it.

    Final analysis: There are really two things that could keep Detwiler out of the top 5 picks in the draft this June. First, there is the concern that he really hasn't faced many quality opponents. Indeed, Wichita State was the first truly good program that Detwiler faced this season, and even though his pitching wasn't the root cause of MSU's loss, he probably didn't ease many doubts with his outing. Second, Detwiler only throws three pitches, and while two are very good, his change has a reputation for being rather mediocre.

    Of course, Detwiler is also a lefty who throws 93 mph without a whole lot of effort, and his frame offers a lot of projection. If his changeup continues to develop, Detwiler could very well develop into a frontline pitcher. Since this year's crop of collegiate pitching is pretty thin, it's not hard to project that Detwiler will probably go early in the first round this year. He'll have other chances to test himself in the coming month as MSU faces quality opponents like Creighton and Evansville, so he's definitely a pitcher worth watching closely as the draft approaches.

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